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  • Unknown 1st wife of Dr. Formy-Duval "AKA The Princess" (c.1760 - bef.1808)
    From . By Jack E. Fryar, Jr. The Formy-Duvals had made it safely to their new home. Once ashore the doctor and his wife set out for St. Domingue, where King Louis had granted him lands in the 1780’s. ...
  • Jean Jacques Dessalines, Gouverneur général d'Haïti, Empereur d'Haïti (1758 - 1806)
    Dessalines quotesNous serons attaqués ce matin Je ne veux garder que des braves sous la main. Que ceux qui veulent devenir esclaves sortent maintenant. Que ceux qui veulent mourir en hommes vaillants, ...
  • Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc d’Ostin (1772 - 1802)
    Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc (17 March 1772, Pontoise - 2 November 1802) was a French Army general and husband to Pauline Bonaparte, sister to Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Maximilien de Robespierre (1758 - 1794)
    François Marie Isidore de Robespierre (IPA: [maksimilj%C9%9B%CC%83 fʁɑ̃swa maʁi izidɔʁ də ʁɔbɛspjɛʁ]; 6 May 1758 – 28 July 1794) is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revo...

This is a project about the Haitian Revolution.

The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was a slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Republic of Haiti. The Haitian Revolution was the only slave revolt which led to the founding of a state. Furthermore, it is generally considered the most successful slave rebellion ever to have occurred and as a defining moment in the histories of both Europe and the Americas. The revolt began with a rebellion of black African slaves in April of 1791. It ended in November of 1803 with the French defeat at the Battle of Vertières. Haiti became an independent country on January 1, 1804, with Jean-Jacques Dessalines being chosen by a council of generals to assume the office of governor-general. He ordered the 1804 Haiti Massacre of the white Haitian minority, resulting in the deaths of between 3,000 and 5,000 people, between February and April 1804.[1]

Although an independent government was created in Haiti, the country's society continued to be deeply affected by the patterns established under French colonial rule. Because many white planters had provided for the mixed-race children they had by black African women, by giving them education and (for males) training and entrée into the French military, the mulatto descendants who along with the wealthy freedmen had been orchestrators of the revolution, became the elite of Haitian society after the war's end. Many of them had used their social capital to acquire wealth, and some already owned land. Some had identified more with the colonists than the slaves.

Their domination of politics and economics after the revolution created another two-caste society, as most Haitians were rural subsistence farmers.[2] In addition, the nascent state's future was compromised in 1825 when it was forced to pay 150 million gold francs in reparations to French slaveholders, in order to receive French recognition and end the nation's political and economic isolation.[1] Though the amount of the reparations was reduced in 1838, Haiti was unable to finish paying off its debt until 1947, and the payments left the country's government deeply impoverished, causing instability.[3]


Many of the riches of the Caribbean depended on Europeans' taste for sugar, which plantation owners traded for provisions from North America and manufactured goods from European countries. The island also had extensive coffee, cocoa, indigo, and cotton plantations, but these were smaller and less profitable than the wealthy sugar plantations.[4] Starting in the 1730s, French engineers constructed complex irrigation systems to increase sugarcane production. By the 1740s Saint-Domingue, together with Jamaica, had become the main supplier of the world's sugar. Sugar production depended on extensive manual labor provided by enslaved Africans in the harsh Saint-Domingue colonial plantation economy. The white planters who derived their wealth from the sale of slave produced sugar knew they were outnumbered by slaves by a factor of more than ten; they lived in fear of slave rebellion.[5] White masters extensively used the threat of physical violence to maintain control and limit this possibility for slave rebellion. When slaves left the plantations or disobeyed their masters, they were subject to whipping, or to more extreme torture such as castration or burning, the punishment being both a personal lesson and a warning for other slaves. Louis XIV, the French King, passed the Code Noir in 1685 in an attempt to regulate such violence and the treatment of slaves in general in the colony, but masters openly and consistently broke the code, and local legislation reversed parts of it throughout the 18th century.[6]

In 1758, the white landowners began passing legislation restricting the rights of other groups of people until a rigid caste system was defined. Most historians have classified the people of the era into three groups. One was the white colonists, or blancs. A second was the free blacks (usually mixed-race, known as mulattoes or gens de couleur libres, free people of color). These gens de couleur tended to be educated and literate and they often served in the army or as administrators on plantations. Many were children of white planters and enslaved mothers. The males often received education or artisan training, sometimes received property from their fathers, and freedom. The third group, outnumbering the others by a ratio of ten to one, was made up of mostly African-born slaves. A high rate of mortality among them meant that planters continually had to import new slaves. This kept their culture more African and separate from other people on the island. Many plantations had large concentrations of slaves from a particular region of Africa, and it was therefore somewhat easier for these groups to maintain elements of their culture, religion, and language. This also separated new slaves from Africa from creoles (slaves born in the colony), who already had kin networks and often had more prestigious roles on plantations and more opportunities for emancipation.[7] Most slaves spoke a patois of French and West African languages known as Creole, which was also used by native mulattoes and whites for communication with the workers.[8]

White colonists and black slaves frequently had violent conflicts. Many of these conflicts surrounded the slaves who had escaped the plantations. Many of these runaway slaves, called (Maroons), lived on the margins of large plantations and lived off what they could steal from their previous masters. Others fled to towns, to blend in with urban slaves and the freed slaves who often concentrated in those areas. If caught, these runaway slaves would be severely and violently punished. However, some masters tolerated "petit marronages", or short-term absences from plantations.[7] Often, however, larger groups of runaway slaves lived in the woods away from control. They often conducted violent raids on the island's sugar and coffee plantations. Although the numbers in these bands grew large (sometimes into the thousands), they generally lacked the leadership and strategy to accomplish large-scale objectives. The first effective maroon leader to emerge was the charismatic François Mackandal, who succeeded in unifying the black resistance. A Haitian Vodou priest, Mackandal inspired his people by drawing on African traditions and religions. He united the maroon bands and also established a network of secret organizations among plantation slaves, leading a rebellion from 1751 through 1757. Although Mackandal was captured by the French and burned at the stake in 1758, large armed maroon bands persisted in raids and harassment after his death.[5][9]

Situation in 1789

Social stratification

In 1789 Saint-Domingue produced 60% of the world's coffee and 40% of the world's sugar imported by France and Britain. The colony was the most profitable possession of the French Empire. Saint-Domingue was also the wealthiest and most prosperous, for the plantation owners at least, colony of all the colonies in the Caribbean.

In 1789, whites numbered 32,000; mulattoes and free blacks, 28,000; and black slaves, an estimated 452,000.[10] The lowest class of society was enslaved blacks, who outnumbered whites and free people of color by ten to one.[5] The slave population on the island totaled almost half of the one million slaves in the Caribbean by 1789.[11] Two thirds were African-born, they tended to be less submissive than those born in the Americas.[12] The death rate in the Caribbean exceeded the birth rate, so imports of enslaved Africans were necessary in order to maintain the numbers required to work the plantations. The slave population declined at an annual rate of two to five percent, due to overwork; inadequate food, shelter, clothing and medical care; and an imbalance between the sexes, with more men than women.[13] Some slaves were of a creole elite class of urban slaves and domestics, who worked as cooks, personal servants and artisans around the plantation house. This relatively privileged class was chiefly born in the Americas, while the under-class born in Africa labored hard, more often than not, under abusive and brutal conditions.

Among Saint-Domingue's 40,000 white colonials in 1789, European-born Frenchmen monopolized administrative posts. The sugar planters, the grands blancs, were chiefly minor aristocrats. Most returned to France as soon as possible, hoping to avoid the dreaded yellow fever, which regularly swept the colony.[14] The lower-class whites, petits blancs, included artisans, shopkeepers, slave dealers, overseers, and day laborers.

Saint-Domingue's free people of color, the gens de couleur, numbered more than 28,000 by 1789. Around that time, colonial legislations, concerned with this growing and strengthening population, passed discriminatory laws that visibly differentiated these freedmen by dictating their clothing and where they could live. These laws also barred them from occupying many public offices.[4] Many of these freedmen were also artisans and overseers, or domestic servants in the big houses.[15] Le Cap Français, a northern port, had a large population of freed slaves, and these men would later become important leaders in the 1791 slave rebellion and later revolution.[16]

Regional conflicts

In addition to class and racial tension between whites, free people of color, and enslaved blacks, the country was polarized by regional rivalries between the North, South, and West.

The North was the center of shipping and trading, and therefore had the largest French elite population. The Plaine du Nord on the northern shore of Saint-Domingue was the most fertile area with the largest sugar plantations. It was the area of most economic importance, especially as most of the colony's trade went through these ports. The largest and busiest port was Le Cap Français (present-day Le Cap Haïtien), the capital of French Saint-Domingue until 1751, when Port-au-Prince was made the capital.[16] In this northern region, enslaved Africans lived in large groups of workers in relative isolation, separated from the rest of the colony by the high mountain range known as the Massif du Nord. These slaves would join with urban slaves from Le Cap to lead the 1791 rebellion, which began in this region. This area was the seat of power of the grands blancs, the rich white colonists who wanted greater autonomy for the colony, especially economically.[17]

The Western Province, however, grew significantly after the capital was relocated to Port-au-Prince in 1751, and the region became increasingly wealthy in the second half of the 18th century when irrigation projects allowed significant sugar plantation growth.[citation needed] The Southern Province lagged in population and wealth because it was geographically separated from the rest of the colony. However, this isolation allowed freed slaves to find profit in trade with British Jamaica, and they gained power and wealth here.[16] In addition to these interregional tensions, there were conflicts between proponents of independence, those loyal to France, allies of Spain, and allies of Great Britain – who coveted control of the valuable colony.


Main article: Haitian Revolution

Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 and principles of the rights of man, free people of color and slaves in Saint-Domingue and the French West Indies pressed for freedom and more civil rights. Most important was the revolution of the slaves in Saint-Domingue, starting in the northern plains in 1791, where Africans greatly outnumbered the whites.

In 1792, the French government sent three commissioners with troops to re-establish control. To build an alliance with the gens de couleur and slaves, the French commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel abolished slavery in the colony. Six months later, the National Convention, led by Robespierre and the Jacobins, endorsed abolition and extended it to all the French colonies.[45]

Political leaders in the United States, which was a new republic itself, reacted with ambivalence, at times providing aid to enable planters to put down the revolt. Later in the revolution, the US provided support to black Haitian military forces, with the goal of reducing French influence in North America and the Caribbean.[46]

Toussaint Louverture, a former slave and leader in the slave revolt, drove out the Spanish (from Santo Domingo) and the British invaders who threatened the colony. In the uncertain years of revolution, the United States played both sides off against each other, with its traders supplying both the French and the rebels.[47] The struggle within Haiti between the free people of color led by André Rigaud and the black Haitians led by Louverture devolved into the War of the Knives in 1799 and 1800.[48][49] Many surviving free people of color left the island as refugees.

After Louverture created a separatist constitution, Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802 sent an expedition of more than 20,000 men under the command of his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, to retake the island. The French achieved some victories, but within a few months, most of the French troops had died from yellow fever.[50] More than 50,000 French troops died in an attempt to retake the colony, including 18 generals.[51] The French captured Louverture, transporting him to France for trial. He was imprisoned at Fort de Joux, where he died in 1803 of exposure and possibly tuberculosis.[43]

The slaves, along with free gens de couleur and allies, continued their fight for independence. Jean-Jacques Dessalines defeated French troops at the Battle of Vertières on 18 November 1803, leading the first ever successful slave army revolution. In late 1803, France withdrew its remaining 7,000 troops from the island and Napoleon gave up his idea of re-establishing a North American empire. With the war going badly, he sold Louisiana (New France) to the United States, in the Louisiana Purchase.